Mann Dance Academy presents 'The Nutcracker'

Mike Easterling
Jarod Charles and Cherelle Tucker are featured in the 2014 Mann Dance Academy Inc. production of 'The Nutcracker.' This year's production takes place this weekend at San Juan College.

FARMINGTON — Even though the Mann Dance Academy’s production of “The Nutcracker” is a traditional version and the company is now in its seventh year of mounting the show, Judy Mann says pulling all the elements together is anything but a routine operation.

Mann — who directs the show with her sisters Becky Mann and Traci Mann — said the production involves the efforts of approximately 100 local dancers, along with 50 or so crew members, technicians, set builders and parents who help out backstage. Rehearsals for the performers in the lead roles begin in July, and 90-minute classes for performers in other parts take place every week in September, October and November.

“Hundreds of hours go into it,” she said last week as rehearsals continued for this year’s production, which takes place this weekend at San Juan College. “And that doesn’t count the work that goes into the props and the sets and the new costumes.”

Mann said she likes doing the traditional version of the holiday classic, rather than one of the spinoffs that have become so popular in recent years, because she likes providing her students with a solid foundation.

“I think you need to know the way it is before you change it,” she said, explaining that by the time students who have been with the academy for many years finally move on, they have received a full education not just in dance, but in the music and technical aspects of “The Nutcracker.”

Tiana Winer dances during last year's production of 'The Nutcracker.'

That’s not to say Mann and her sisters don’t add small twists to the production periodically.

“We change some of the choreography every year,” she said. “We like to keep a new edge on it and make it a new learning experience. But if it looks like the same production to the audience, to the dancer, it feels different. And the story line, we don’t tweak.”

One of the elements that keeps the production fresh each year, she said, is that all the dancers perform new roles. Some have been with the academy for as long as seven years, she said, and the performers in this show range in age from 8 to 24 years.

Mann said her focus is simply on making the production better each year — not just the performances, but also the costumes, sets and lighting.

Aubrie Lybrook performs as Clara in last year's production of 'The Nutcracker' by the Mann Dance Academy Inc.

This production also will be different for Mann in that her sister Traci, a 30-veteran of the New York dance scene, is helping direct the show.

“We’re really having a blast — three sisters working together,” Judy Mann said of the experience. “It’s nice for the students, too. They’re catching another dance teacher’s ideas and presentation. And we have three other teachers employed by the studio, too.”

The academy is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and performs three big shows a year. But Mann said she always looks forward to the production of “The Nutcracker."

“I enjoy seeing the students and the families have a classical outside (of the family) celebration, and I love offering it to the community,” she said. “It’s a chance for them to see what the whole dance experience is about in the ballet arena. (The dancers) get so excited. It’s fun to share that joy with them. They know this is their opportunity to shine, and I really enjoy helping the kids reach that level.”

With several dozen local dancers taking part in the show, Mann believes audience members won’t have to look hard to find a familiar face or two.

“You’re likely to see somebody you know,” she said. “And that’s always what makes it special.”

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

Taylor Winer, left, Bethany Heddin and Freddy Ortiz are featured in last year's production of 'The Nutcracker' by the Mann Dance Academy Inc.

If you go

What: The Mann Dance Academy Inc. production of “The Nutcracker”

When: 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12

Where: The Henderson Fine Arts Theater on the San Juan College campus, 4601 College Blvd.

Tickets: $10 for adults, and $8 for students and seniors. Special group rates for clubs and organizations are available with the approval of Mann Dance Academy Inc.

For more information: Call 505-564-3845 or email